When My First Cousin’s Husky Puppy Licks My Face / They Say Men Are Always About Looks
When My First Cousin’s Husky Puppy Licks My Face
Adorable! swings wide from the roof
of my mouth. Mom slams the soapstone,
shoves the dog outside. Adorable?
Really? What kind of man says that?
She waves her hands loosely. Adorable!
Lurches as if to vomit. Just go
finish the firewood. The splitting maul
floats through my swing into sixteen
inches of sycamore, disinterring
honeybees mummified by winter
like the township drunks always idling
up the road, one of whom once said,
Well, ain’t you adorable? He fingered
my curls, I punched his nut sac.
Why do I need to sound like a man
when most men are small and wicked?
Before dinner, loaded bees return
to their burrow, raising dust
under the boxwood, my hand a blur
in their buzz that will never hurt me
the same as a switch, an axe,
a strange touch, the long quiet
night, a tongue.
They Say Men Are Always About Looks
but I fell in love over the phone
in 1989, his name two low notes
shoved out my throat, repeated
like a gulf smacking shore rocks
in starlight, our letters tucked
between issues of Uncanny X-Men
because I did not want a willow
switch across my back,
did not want his hands cut off
before he could touch me.
When he called collect
on Sundays at 1:45, after Maghrib,
his parents asleep in their room,
he whispered, Do you ride the 3-wheeler
alone? Do you name the baby cows?
Do you wear bib overalls without a shirt?
What is it like to bale hay? Yes, yes
and yes, hot and dirty, I said before
explaining Rogue’s mutation, a touch
that removes, a safety in distance.
Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, OH. His chapbook SAGITTARIUS A* will be published in October 2020 by Sibling Rivalry Press. A poetry reader for The Adroit Journal and Flypaper Lit, he is the 2020 recipient of the Christopher Hewitt Award for poetry and a finalist for the 2020 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. His work can be found in The Cortland Review, Impossible Archetype, No Contact, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Juked, A&U Magazine, and many other publications. You can read more at https://benklineonline.wordpress.com/.